Ford brand looks to move upscale
2 redesigned stars add features, refinement
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The 2013 model year is crucial for the brand. Two of Ford's three biggest sellers, the Escape crossover and Fusion mid-sized sedan, have been redesigned dramatically. Along with the F-series pickup, these vehicles are the heart of the Ford lineup.
With these two redesigns, the Ford brand is making a conscious move upscale by offering customers refinement, design, technology and features usually found in luxury brands. For example, the Escape moves away from its boxy SUV origins to a graceful, swoopy design, while the Fusion, with its big-mouth grille, has drawn comparisons to an Aston Martin.
Ford also has dropped V-6 engines from both vehicles, putting a 2.0-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder in top-of-the-line versions.
The next few years will also see the rollout of several electrified Fords.
Here are highlights for Ford brand's 2013-15 models.
Fiesta: Sales of the Fiesta subcompact have languished as the compact Focus emerged as a powerhouse in the brand's lineup during the last year. But changes are on the way for Ford's smallest North American offering. The biggest change is expected to be a 1.0-liter, three-cylinder EcoBoost engine, which should arrive next year in the restyled 2014 Fiesta.
Ford showed a sporty Fiesta ST concept at the Los Angeles show last November. A five-door Fiesta ST should arrive next year.
Focus: The Focus ST, a sporty hatchback, comes to dealerships in late August. The ST is powered by a 2.0-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder engine that cranks out 252 hp, generates 270 pounds-feet of torque and is teamed with a six-speed manual transmission.
The 2013 Focus Electric will be Ford's first electric-only vehicle.
Ford recently has been showing off a European-spec Focus powered by a 1.0-liter EcoBoost three-cylinder engine. Ford officials say the engine will be offered soon in North American small cars. The Focus could get it next year. Ford also is considering small diesels for the Focus.
The Focus, which was redesigned for the 2011 model year, is scheduled for minor changes in 2015, possibly including a new front end.
Fusion: With its swoopy Aston Martin-inspired styling, the 2013 Fusion wowed the crowds when it debuted at the Detroit auto show early this year. The mid-sized sedan will be arriving in Ford dealerships this fall with five powertrain options.
Ford has dropped the former top-of-the-line V-6 in favor of a 2.0-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder engine. Ford also will offer the Fusion with a conventional hybrid, a plug-in hybrid and three four-cylinder gasoline engines, including a 1.6-liter EcoBoost, likely to be the biggest seller.
The Fusion comes with a brace of high-tech options including adaptive cruise control, parking assist, blind-spot detection, lane-keeping assist, Sync and the next generation of MyFord Touch.
Taurus: The Taurus was reskinned for the 2013 model year, including a new hood and grille. Ford has added a four-cylinder engine to the lineup: its 2.0-liter EcoBoost. A redesigned Taurus due in 2015 model year is expected to be built on an extended version of the Fusion platform.
Mustang: No other car in the Ford stable has had a longer production run than the Mustang. The 50th anniversary of the Mustang's debut comes up in 2014, and Ford is preparing to celebrate with the next generation. The new car is likely to arrive in the spring of 2014 on a new rear-wheel-drive platform. For the first time, the Mustang will get independent rear suspension. It is also likely to get a four-cylinder EcoBoost engine.
Ford will likely depart from the current retro look in favor of a more contemporary look, but it will remain unmistakably a Mustang. The Evos concept hints at the pony car's look.
C-Max: The 2013 C-Max crossover arrives in dealerships this fall. The five-seat hatchback will be Ford's first effort to sell a European-style compact minivan in North America.
Ford is offering the C-Max only in two hybrid versions: a conventional gas-electric geared to go against the Toyota Prius and a plug-in hybrid that functions like the Chevrolet Volt. Look for the gasoline-electric version to arrive in dealerships by October, while the plug-in version, known as the C-Max Energi, will go on sale later in the fourth quarter. Ford projects the hybrid will get 47 mpg city and 44 mpg highway. It will be priced from $25,995, including freight.
The C-Max Energi is priced from $29,995, with shipping, after a federal tax credit. Ford says the range will be 550 miles, including 20 miles on electric power alone.
Escape: For 2013, Ford made a big stylistic leap with its smallest crossover. With its squarish, SUV-derived design, the previous-generation stuck out in the crowded small-crossover field, where carlike lines had become more predominant.
Ford dropped not only the boxy shape but also the top-of-the-line V-6 engine. In its place is a 2.0-liter four-cylinder EcoBoost that cranks out more horsepower than the old V-6 and gets better fuel economy. Ford dropped the hybrid Escape. Ford is counting on the C-Max to keep those hybrid customers within the brand. Ford expects the 1.6-liter EcoBoost, rated at 23 mpg city/33 mpg highway with front-wheel drive, to be the biggest seller of the three engine choices.
Edge: Edge sales have slumped as it has been squeezed by the Escape from below and Explorer from above. But a redesigned Edge will arrive in 2013 for the 2014 model year. It will be based on Ford's global mid-size platform, the same platform the Fusion is built on.
Explorer: Ford introduced a redesigned Explorer for the 2011 model year. A refreshed version should be due about the 2014 model year.
Flex: The Flex got a new front end for 2013 with the word FLEX in large block letters on the front of the hood, replacing the Ford blue oval. The Flex also got a new interior and the latest version of the MyFord Touch infotainment system. Though the Flex has been a slow seller in some places, it is a hit in California, which accounts for about 20 percent of Flex sales.
Expedition: The Expedition should get the 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6 in 2014.
F series: For the first time, Ford's F-series pickups will come in 2013 with the MyFord Touch infotainment system, which will be available on Lariat, King Ranch, Limited and Platinum editions. The system will feature redundant hard buttons and large knobs truckers can grip when wearing gloves. The F-150 also gets a new Limited edition top-of-the-line model, while the Super Duty gets a Platinum edition. For 2013, the 6.2-liter V-8 will be available for the first time on the XLT model, the biggest selling F-150.
Ford has big plans for the next-generation F-150. The redesign is due in 2014. Ford, which uses an aluminum hood and other aluminum parts on the current F series, is expected to make greater use of the lightweight metal to improve fuel efficiency.
Transit: Ford will begin making the Transit commercial van next year in Kansas City, Mo., as a 2014 model. The European-style commercial van will feature Ford's 3.5-liter EcoBoost engine and a diesel, likely a 3.2-liter Duratorq. Ford has not said exactly how the Transit will be branded, but it has trademarked names such as T-150, T-250 and T-350. The Transit is a rwd van based on the European Transit.
E series: Ford will continue to build its long-running E-series van for some time after Transit production begins. The company won't say just how long. But the cutaway version of the E series, used in such applications as airport shuttle vans, will continue well into this decade.
You can reach Bradford Wernle at email@example.com.